Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Expect Privacy; Violate Free Speech Rights of Telcos?

Here's a new one: Verizon is now claiming that consumers have no reason to complain about Verizon's complicity in the NSA wiretapping scandal because Verizon has a first amendment right to provide customer information to the Bush Administration!

Excuse me for being skeptical, but there are plenty of laws and case-law Verizon is required to follow that trump their purported right to divulge customer information under the guise of free speech:

  1. one has a right of privacy for contents of telephone conversations, telegraph messages, or electronic data by wire. 18 USC § 2510 et seq
  2. one has a right of privacy for contents of radio messages. 47 USC §605
  3. Content of e-mail in public systems are confidential. 18 USC § 2702(a)
  4. the right to be let alone — the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men. To protect that right, every unjustifiable intrusion by the government upon the privacy of the individual, whatever the means employed, must be deemed a violation of the Fourth Amendment: Olmstead v. U.S., 277 U.S. 438, 478 (1928) (Brandeis,J., dissenting).
  5. Finally, in 1967, the Court overturned its ruling in Olmstead and held that recording by police of conversation in public telephone booth was a violation of the Fourth Amendment, because the speaker had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the booth. Katz v. U.S., 389 U.S. 347, 350 (1967).
Cited from "Privacy Law in the USA", Copyright 1997 Ronald B. Standler

That was from a single Google search. If I actually spent an hour or so doing more research I'm sure I could dig up some more information.

This follows the government intervening last week asking for the suit to be tossed because it could reveal state secrets. Here's a hint to the government, you already tried doing this same thing in the AT&T case, and it didn't fly.

I must admit though that this "Free Speech" angle was quite creative on the part of Verizon!

Update: On my first reading, I missed that Verizon is claiming that the Electronic Communications Protection Act is unconstitutional. I'm not a lawyer, so I'm not going to comment on this too much, and leave it up to people who know what they are talking about.


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